|Harry Kent, Brett Whiteley's ghost, oil on aluminium panel, 90x120cm.|
I wanted to explore further the co-agency of media in creative practice. I wanted to discover, by doing, how oil paint that had been been substantially thinned with gum turps and Liquol might behave if given fairly free flow. Could i use repeated pourings of puddles to built up an expressive portrait? I envisaged a process very much like that employed in water color washes but using a pouring dispenser instead of brushes..
For that, i needed two other characteristics of water color - a reflective support and translucent pigments. For i knew from experience that watercolor paintings (unlike gouache) gain their glow from the light passing through the pigment and reflecting back out of the painting off the white paper beneath to the viewer.
I hoped that polished aluminium plate might achieve a similar effect but with more luminous 'edge'. I think it does. But trying to polish out the imperfections in the surface of a 900x1200x0.8mm plate is exhausting and requires more patience than i have. I used a wax based metal polish which made me worry about subsequent paint adhesion.
Since then i have discovered cerium oxide powder ($35 for 250gm) which is used to polish and clean glass. I haven't as yet tried it on metal. But it has promise and the huge advantage of being a powder that you mix with water to make a slurry. After rinsing there is absolutely no residue left on the surface.
For translucent paints i selected some semi-transluscent oil colors - Prussian blue (PB27), Viridian PG7) and Dioxazine Purple (PV23).
I had also wanted to find out what the best way of mixing, storing and applying might be. In the end I settled on used tomato ketchup plastic squeeze bottles with their screw-valve tops.
Once poured out onto the aluminium surface, allowed to settle and dry, I found the paint even granulated like watercolour. Was it the result of the Liquol mix left standing for a few days?
Unfortunately my photo fails to capture both the effects of scale (the image has a significant presence) and of reflective surface. The light gleams off the exposed parts and through the paint as one moves past and around the painting. It has an inorganic coldness about it quite suited to the subject - Whiteley's ghost. And the work feels very permanent, being on metal.
Would i do another? Probably not. Not unless i could purchase perfectly polished sheets (unlike the dented and scratched panel i got from an industrial estate). And if i did, the pools of paint would be larger and more layered. And most importantly, i would have to acquire a work easel that i could tilt in all directions, including dead level. So, some investment needed if this were to become a polished professional art form.
Meantime, it's been an interesting learning experience. And here it is .... Brett Whiteley's ghost.